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White Oleander

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Film and Books

Does a movie have the power to tell a story better than the novel? In Janet Fitch's novel "White Oleander" we follow a girl named Astrid Magnusson as she moves from foster home to foster home, due to her mother being put in prison for murder. When you take a book and turn it to a movie you have to loose some of the detail for time purposes. For example the book has more time to develop characters and explain who they are, where the movie has an hour or two to tell the whole story. Films also change some of the information so it is easier for the viewer to understand. Changing a characters name, switching events around or even changing the setting can help tell the story but could also make it harder to understand.

The movie stayed true to most of the characters in the book it never altered any of their personalities but at the same time did not explain in full detail. The movie stays very true to the character of Ingrid Magnusson who is Astrid's mother and a poet. Ingrid is a cruel character she really only cares for herself though she has love for Astrid she has a funny way of showing it. She has many rules that she tells Astrid about life but none of which she actually follows. During the story Ingrid meets Barry who is also a fellow writer. Barry breaks down all of Ingrid's barriers she eventually falls in love with him, "Mother was breaking all her rules, they weren't set in stone after all" (24). He had no interest in Ingrid though he was only around for the sex. When she finds this out she ends up killing Barry thus starting the horrible life for Astrid.

Astrid is the opposite of her mother she is nice girl but a very lonely person most of this due to her mother not caring too much about her feelings. She has much love for her mother in the beginning even though she lives in her shadow. When Astrid starts moving from home to home she begins attaching herself to anyone that shows her compassion. Her mother takes this as a sign of weakness "You have proved every bit as retarded as your school once claimed you were. You'll attach yourself to anyone who shows you the least bit of attention, won't you? I wash my hands of you" (168).

Barry is a major character but at the same time he is some what minor. He puts the story into motion but is not around very long before Ingrid kills him. He is a kind person even though he is a womanizer in the book he is described as man with a belly on him and apparently he not very attractive Ingrid refers to him as a "goat man" (12) . Barry gets his kicks by sleeping with young beautiful women, after he sleeps with them he moves to the next one. He is not around in the movie for very long and they do not explain him very well. In the book he was a major character sticking around for a few chapters his role in the film is short and minor but they stayed true to his character.

Ray also plays a minor role but at the same time it is an extremely important role. Ray is Starr's boyfriend he is a middle aged man who for some reason has an attraction to Astrid. Ray is the first person Astrid attaches her self to they end up have sexual relations that don't end well. Ray turned out to not be like I pictured him but even though they changed his age in the film it did not change his role in the story.

Olivia is a minor character who teaches Astrid some things about life. Olivia lives next door to Marvel who is one of the foster home parents. Olivia is nice generous person she is the second person Astrid attaches herself to. She is a prostitute but shows love and compassion toward Astrid she buys her clothing and teaches her how to get things out of life "It wont always be so hard, Astrid. Beautiful girls like you and I have certain advantages" (142). They choose to leave her out of the movie which I believe was a big mistake because she plays a major role in how Astrid turns out in the end.

Claire is a very important character in the story and she acted out beautifully they stayed to true with her character. Claire is the first person Astrid finds that is truly like a mother to her. Claire is a compassionate and loving person but has security issues and depression these eventually lead to the end of her. Ingrid has no love for how Claire is treating Astrid and eventually gets in Claire's head.

The movie switched around the foster homes and left two of them out. Starr's house is first foster home that Astrid gets taken to after Ingrid is sent to jail. Starr lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles with her kids. This home is important in that fact that it is this home that Astrid meets Ray and they become sexually active her first encounter with the opposite sex. Starr also tells Astrid about needing a bra at her age and she also tries to save Astrid "I can't wait for you to meet Reverend Thomas. Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior" (54). Starr has two kids in the movie Carolee her 16 year old daughter and Davey there is also a little black boy their in the movie. All is going great till Starr finds out that Ray and Astrid are having sexual relations. When she finds this out she shoots Astrid in the hip, she is then taken to the hospital and till she recovers she is then moved to the next home. The movie played this home out perfectly with the book.

The next home is Marvel's house which was left out of the movie. Marvel treats Astrid like a slave she always has tons of chores for Astrid to do. This home is where she meets Olivia



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